Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 732-743

First online:

Ethnic Identity in Context: Variations in Ethnic Exploration and Belonging within Parent, Same-ethnic Peer, and Different-ethnic Peer Relationships

  • Lisa KiangAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Wake Forest University Email author 
  • , Andrew J. FuligniAffiliated withUniversity of California

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Within an ethnically diverse sample of young adults (n = 223, 26% Latin American, 14% Asian American, 32% Filipino American, 28% European American), average levels of ethnic identity was found to vary significantly across different relational contexts. Regardless of ethnicity, young adults reported highest levels of ethnic exploration and ethnic belonging with parents, followed by same-ethnic peers, then different-ethnic peers. Significantly greater variation between relational contexts generally was found for ethnic exploration compared to ethnic belonging. Greater variation in ethnic identity, particularly between same-ethnic and different-ethnic contexts was associated with lower self-esteem, positive affect, relational competence, and higher negative affect, though these liabilities were only found for European American youth. The discussion emphasizes the importance of examining ethnic identity as a dynamic construct that can vary as a function of relationships, and proposes directions for future research.


Ethnic identity Relational variation Parents Peers Adjustment